There’s No Crying in Group Work!
But let’s face it, sometimes we have to hold back the tears. One of the most dreaded assignments in a college course is a group project, and in Business they are bound to occur at LEAST once every semester.
What is it that makes group projects so difficult? Often times it’s not even the material or the assignment itself that causes stress, but the coordination and planning of how it will be completed both efficiently and effectively, so that everyone comes out on top. It’s sometimes hard to manage planning and execution without any one or more group members doing a significantly larger portion of the work than the others.
If you put as much significance on the CHOOSING of your group members and PLANNING of their parts as you do the project itself, 70% of your work is already done.
25% Choosing Your Group
If you’re allowed to choose your group members for a project, it is highly suggested that you choose them carefully, especially if you’re someone with a tight schedule. Your lack of flexibility is not going to be anyone else’s problem but your own if you choose not to address it in the beginning. It is your responsibility to find people that can work with it so that you’re not left out in the cold. Bring a hard copy of your schedule including class and work times to provide your classmates a visual of when you are and are not available when groups are being made.
Also when choosing group members, it may not always be a good idea to work with friends even if you know them well, because an effective team is one that can give and receive critical feedback (David Kroenke, Experiencing MIS). Group members must also be able to hold each other accountable for the completion of certain tasks, and you may be less likely to do so if you’re working with friends who you don’t want to fall behind.
Don’t be afraid to work with people different from you either as often times it is our differences that complement each other to create something better than if they didn’t exist at all. The important part is that if you are able to choose your group members, some thought and/or strategy should be put into doing so.
45% Planning Meetings and Collaboration
The most arguably difficult part of group projects (hence why it’s almost half the work) is planning its meetings and somehow determining in those meetings who is going to do what part(s), by what time those parts are going to be done, and how the rest of the group is going to collaborate with each of them.
Doodle.com is a FREE website used for scheduling meetings and displaying availability that should be used as soon as possible so it can be determined early on when everyone is available to work on the project if it must be done together.
The project itself doesn’t necessarily (always) have to be started as soon as possible, but the meetings that determine its execution do. If you wait too long to try meeting with your group and it turns out there is a serious schedule conflict that makes it next to impossible to complete the project, it will be easier for you to switch groups early on (whether chosen by you or the instructor), than it will be after other groups have already started working.
Get as many initial meetings out of the way in the beginning so that there is at least a foundation set up for the rest of the project’s completion, whenever a group member chooses to work on it. Without that foundation, no one can do any (effective) work, and the duration of the window there is to work on the project will become even narrower than it already seems to be at times.
Every project’s planning and assigning of parts is going to be different based on the nature of the work and its group members, but this section just emphasizes the importance of determining availability and planning the meetings early, because that is almost half the battle.
30% Doing Your Part
Independently of whether you’ve gotten to choose your group or not, after having meetings that have assigned parts and set deadlines, the work that you do on your own should be the least of your worries. As long as you use the same reasonable planning and organization skills that it takes to complete work in any other class, you should be able to complete the tasks and meet deadlines for the group project. This makes the collaboration when the project is being put together that much easier.
Just as the execution of section 2 is dependent upon the nature of the work itself and the group members, how you do your own part is also determined by such things. The important part to remember in this section is that your part must get done ON TIME, and that it’s imperative for you to see by whatever means possible that it does.
By mentally weighing each of these sections by the importance provided, you may get a better idea of how successful group projects work and how to get the next one done with less stress. Of course these are not literal measurements of the work it takes to complete a group project, but mental guidelines of how much is truly involved in their efficient completion. So, hopefully, the next time you you hear the dreaded term “group” utter from your professor’s mouth, you won’t feel the need to cry as much.